18 Sept 2019
New strategy aims to tackle sheep reproduction
Column by Will Oldfield
Policy Officer, Sheep Producers Australia
A NEW collaboration of industry stakeholders is focusing on boosting on-farm reproductive rates through improved uptake of current extension tools and identification of any knowledge or research gaps.
While improving on-farm reproduction rates is a key priority for Australian sheep and wool producers, Sheep Producers Australia (SPA), WoolProducers Australia, Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and Animal Health Australia are partnering to develop the Sheep Reproduction Research Development & Extension (RD&E) Strategy.
The collaborative plan is the best way to identify ways that producers, peak industry councils (PICs) and research and development corporations (RDCs) can work together to improve all aspects of reproduction, including lamb survival. Advancements in this field will ultimately result in improvements in the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the sheepmeat and wool sectors.
The strategy will focus on targeted industry RD&E and adoption of relevant on-farm management practices. To facilitate this, the PICs and RDCs will continue to invest in extension of research outcomes and drive increased uptake by producers.
Sheep reproduction is an important factor for producers to manage and can have significant impacts on the economics and profitability of enterprises. It forms the basis of genetic flock improvement and is vital to weaning more lambs.
By undertaking this work, industry will be addressing a key component contributing towards ensuring consistency of sheepmeat and wool supply both within the domestic market and internationally.
The main causes of lower reproductive rates include unseasonable cold, mismothering and dystocia, which are all largely attributable to environmental conditions or sub-optimal nutrition prior to joining or during gestation. Other causes include foetal losses, disease and predation.
The main consideration for producers looking to improve lamb and ewe survival outcomes on-farm is the uptake of best practice management interventions. These include increasing the uptake of pregnancy scanning, optimising nutrition, paddock selection and mob size.
The first development phase of the strategy will be an independent review of the benefits, costs and impacts of existing RD&E activities in sheep reproduction and lamb survival against key industry performance targets.
The strategy is driven by the peak industry councils and will be complementary to the research and development corporations’ (RDCs) strategic plans, consultation and investment calls.
It will also be consistent with the research strategies for both the sheepmeat and wool industries, including the Wool Industry National RD&E Strategy 2018-2022, Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020 and Sheepmeat Industry Strategic Plan 2015-2020. It is also important that research priorities build on previous outcomes and that activities are delivered effectively and efficiently to industry.
Consultation with industry stakeholders will be conducted as part of this review process and will begin shortly. The review, which is expected to be finalised in mid-2020, will also include an assessment of areas for future industry collaborations and any remaining research and adoption gaps.
In the interim, producers can find a range of valuable resources to improve sheep reproduction and lamb survival on-farm through both Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation.
For more information, contact Sheep Producers Australia, 02 6269 5610.